Working as a nurse is a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor. The feel that you get when you help save someone’s life will fill you with a sense of happiness that you cannot achieve working in any other field. Though most people assume that nurses have some type of advanced degree, you can work in the field with a simple diploma. Depending on the type of nursing or field that interests you, you might find that you need a baccalaureate degree or a more advanced degree.

Associate Degree

An Associate’s degree in nursing is one of the more common programs that you’ll encounter. Sometimes called a licensed practical nurse or nursing program, these programs often require 40 credit hours or more of coursework in the field. You’ll spend a portion of your time working in the lab and a portion of time working in the field with actually clients. Most community colleges offer this type of degree program, which you can usually complete in two years. You also have the option of transferring the credits that you earn towards a more advanced nursing program. Some nurses also take courses at a community college that they use to become a registered nurse.

Baccalaureate Degree

A baccalaureate or bachelor’s degree isn’t required of all nurses, but if you want to work as a registered nurse, you typically need to complete this program. The program takes an average of four to five years from the moment that you start, and you have the option of starting a registered nursing program during your freshman year. Like most degree programs, you take courses relating to the basics, including math, English, science and psychology. During your nursing training, you work with clients and have the option of choosing a specialty. Some nurses work with psychiatric patients, while other nurses enjoy working in an emergency room setting.

Advanced Degree

According to Jennifer Sellers, nurses working in certain areas need a graduate degree. Sellers uses the example of APNs. These nurses work more closely with patients than other types of nurses and they often offer the same type of care as doctors do. APNs typically work in clinical settings and hospital settings. Another example is a nurse with a DPN degree. Though it can take an additional two to four years to complete this degree, it entitles you to work in the research arena. Nurses can also complete a PhD program if research interests them.

Nursing Diplomas

A nursing diploma is a basic certificate that shows you took a few nursing classes. Unlike a two-year or four-year degree program, this diploma doesn’t certify you to work with the general public. Some students receive a nursing diploma after taking classes in vocational school, and others complete a diploma program before entering a degree program. You learn some of the basic skills that you need when working in the medical field, and you have the chance to work in the labs and with patients. Some schools require nursing students to complete a few courses before entering the program.

A bachelor’s degree is not necessary for nurses, but many nurses find that the degree opens up more doors and helps them earn more money. You can find work with a simple two-year degree, but you’ll have more opportunities if you complete a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree.